Wisdom 12:19
You gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.
First of all, listen to the start of the first reading once again. “There is no God…” – If you are not careful, you can make Scripture say almost anything! People pull sections of Scripture apart to justify so many different things. And when they take things out of context, it becomes a pretext for error. “There is no God”… Really? Anyway!
Normally in the weekend lectionary, there is a link between the first reading and the gospel. This weekend it was a little hard for me to find right away. But it comes through in the very last verse of the first reading where the mercy of God against sin is made evident. This is in some way the same attitude that we see in the gospel. The weeds and the wheat were left to grow together.
Now, I have to admit, I do not know the difference between a weed and a flower, except maybe for rosebushes. But apparently, there is a weed that, as it grows, it looks like wheat until it is time for the plant to start producing the fruit of the harvest, the wheat. Then it is known which is wheat and which is weed.
But there is something more important that Jesus is saying in the gospel. And it has two aspects. First, if you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat. If God were to take out all of the evil from the world, it would not be to our advantage. We might find ourselves uprooted, which means unable to continue to grow. I will come back to this.
Second, some of the wheat may not have started producing fruit yet, and be mistaken for a weed. Some people mature in their Christian life at different rates. If someone is not producing evidence of a Christian life right now, that does not mean they will not in the future. So if we start removing people who do not seem to be following Christ, are we running the risk of taking out someone who does love the Lord? Or who will love the Lord?
Now back to the first aspect. Some people have wondered why God allows evil to continue around us. Would it not be easier if we had no evil to contend with? Then we would not be subject to temptation.
But, our ability to stand against temptation helps us to grow stronger. If God were to remove the weeds from our lives, the ground would be… unsettled… And we may not grow as well, or as fruitful, as we would if the temptation was left around us to struggle against. It is like resistance training, or weight training.
From St. Paul’s reading today, we are given confidence that the Holy Spirit is there with us to help us understand how to pray. This is what it means to be fruitful in our world. Unless we make our lives a life of prayer, even in the mundane things, even in those things that seem so simple that we might think it is a waste of God’s time, the Holy Spirit is there to see that we are fruitful.
So, as hard as it is to admit, we need the weeds around us so that we can grow in the strength of the Lord. ???? It is okay if we do not like this! ???? It is not comfortable to have to endure either temptation, or someone who seems unable to embrace the faith.
God knows that it is an enemy who is sowing these weeds in our lives. But one thing we also have to remember is that God is the only one who can change a weed into wheat. Or, as my dad put it, God is the only one who can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
I go back to the closing lines of the first reading again: “you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.”
Lord Jesus, you have been so patient with all of us, not just individually, but collectively as the human race. You have watched as we have torn one another to pieces for reasons that cannot stand before you in justice. Your patience is infinite. But we also know that time is not.
Help us to become as fruitful as we can for the sake of your kingdom. Help us to transform the world around us so that it, so that they, can be fruitful as well. Thank you for your patience, your love, and your mercy. Amen.